Rivers of Scarcity. Utopian water regimes and flows against the current

Rutgerd Boelens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Utopians organized space, nature and society to perfection, including land and water governance -- rescuing society from deep-rooted crisis: “The happiest basis for a civilized community, to be universally adopted” (Thomas More, 1516). These days, similarly, well-intended utopian water governance regimes suggest radical transformations to combat the global Water Crisis, controlling deviant natures and humans. In this essay I examine water utopia and dystopia as mirror societies. Modern utopias ignore real-life water cultures, squeeze rivers dry, concentrate water for the few, and blame the victims.

But water-user collectives, men and women, increasingly speak up. They ask scholars and students to help question Flying Islands experts’ claims to rationality, democracy and equity; to co-create water knowledges and co-design water governance, building rooted socionatural commons, building “riverhood”.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-53
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2022


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